We had a quiet afternoon of games yesterday. I started with San Juan. I played a quick three-player game (around 15 minutes, I think) with Robert and Olli. I had a very good game, once again with Prefecture-Library-City Hall set. This time I also used Chapel to gain extra four points. I won Robert with a healthy margin, scoring over 40 points.
There’s one thing in San Juan that bugs me and stops me from giving the game a 10 rating. I find the production buildings are too weak. In two or three-player games easiest way to ruin your game is to build production buildings. If you’re the only producer, you’re doomed, because having to do trading and building yourself just is no good. The guys with purple buildings will use Prospector (especially if they have the Library) and Councillor to get cards and then just Build. There’s absolutely no reason to produce or trade.
I’m not sure how it works if two players play production and one player has purple buildings, but that never seems to happen. But perhaps that’s just how the game works with the group of people I play it with. I think it’s useless to discuss how balanced the game is after you’ve played it hundred times, because I won’t be playing with people with that much experience.
However, it’s pretty obvious I’m playing purple buildings, unless I get cards that dictate otherwise — if that happens, I’ll chalk that up as a draw-caused loss.
We had six players after our game was over, so we played a game of Finstere Flure. One more player wandered in while we were playing the second round, so we added him to the game, too. That worked well. We used the alternate scoring scheme (but forgot to use second-stage rule all the time), which I think is more interesting way to play the game.
In the same Geek thread about alternate Finstere Flure scoring, Phil had this idea of reversing the scoring: first token out is worth one point, second two points and so on. That might be interesting.
Then it was time for a rather interesting game: Media Mogul. It’s the latest game from JLKM Games and a rather interesting one, too. Players are competing media moguls, trying to rule the world with their media outlets. Players build media networks around the globe, competing over audiences. The patrons collected are then sacrificed on the altar of advertising, to get money. Money is needed to start new media outlets and to provide content to attract patrons. I like the way the game considers media content as a lure to get patrons you can sell to advertising — that seems to be a rather realistic approach.
While the component quality is a step up from Kogge, the art and the graphic design is very bad — maybe the worst I’ve seen. One of the guys I played the game with won’t play it again, just because of the usability problems. I think they’re bad, but I like the game enough so I can get over it. If I had a colour printer, I might consider doing a new, better set of cards.
The game is fun, however. Some people won’t like it, because it’s rather unforgiving and you’ll probably make some game-spoiling mistakes in your first game, but that’s good — it just means the decisions you make really matter. Investing in the right place to get some return on your investment isn’t obvious. Besides, the game isn’t half as confusing as Kogge.
I’m looking forward to playing Media Mogul again. It’s an interesting game, which feels refreshing. There’s something new about it.
I wanted to try Fist of Dragonstones with more players. My earlier go at it was a rather boring experience. We had three players and the game ended on the second turn. This time we had five players and I won the game on round four or so. It wasn’t any better this time, really — I actually dropped my rating from seven to four. To be honest, I really can’t stand games like this. It’s just too chaotic. Three points is a very low goal — with some luck, it’s very easy to reach. If the goal was set higher, the game could take hours. Playing the game feels very pointless.
But I’m rather glad about it, anyway. The game will now head to my trade pile and I’m quite certain I’ll be able to sell it, because I think the game is rather good, in an objective way. I know there are people who really like it and other games like it.
Duell looked fascinating, so I gave it a go with Ville. Well, actually, we played with En Garde rules, because I didn’t feel like reading the rule book. It’s a new version of En Garde anyway. The new components are quite neat, even though I prefer the modern fencing to the duelling cloak-wearing guys. Still, it’s certainly fun to play with the new components.
The main changes from En Garde to Duell are losing the step-attack move (which, I think, is a bad mistake but fortunately that’s easy to fix) and the introduction of special cards, which affect the match rules. Cards have effects like reducing the card hand, forcing open cards, banning backwards movement and so on. Sounds very, very boring. However, getting Duell is probably the easiest way to get En Garde these days, so it’s nice to see a good game back in print.
Time for one last game: High Society. Well, two games, because it’s such a quick little game. I hadn’t played it before so it was about time. I haven’t seen the original, but the Überplay looks fantastic. It’s also a very good game, Reiner Knizia at his best.
I think High Society is actually one of the very best auction games I’ve ever played. It’s very simple and fast, but with some very good twists. The misfortune auctions are a nerve-wrecking experience (players must keep on bidding — the first player to pass takes the bad card but can keep his or her money, others have to pay) and the a peculiar scoring rule (the player with the least money is out of the game, no matter who many points they scored). It’s just beautiful.
One more game: I ran an eight-player game of Haggle, using cards from Citadels. It was an interesting experiment. The guys seemed to enjoy the game — at least there was lots of haggling going on. However, the game certainly needs more players and some of the rules were quite unbalanced. Final scores were something like 89, 59, 6, 3, 3, 1, 0, 0…